Published: Jan. 10, 2021

Dear students, faculty, and staff,

Welcome "back" for the start of the spring semester.  The events of the past week have dampened – but not extinguished – optimism for a new year that is better than the last. At the same time they provide ground for renewed commitment to the unifying objective of all we do at Colorado Law: to advance knowledge about the law and, with that, the rule of law, in an open, just society. As we start the new semester, I invite each of us to ponder that commitment and its significance to the functioning and progressive improvement of our democracy, which was stained with the desecration of the Capitol and the assault on the presidential election.

The images of the most prominent representation of United States democracy being stormed by a riotous mob were highly disturbing, to say the least. And I was reminded of the racism and inequality that persist, with rioters brandishing the Confederate flag and a police presence that was timid in comparison to that where Black Lives Matter protests are heard.

We can celebrate, however, that the commitment to the rule of law and, on the whole, the legal profession have once again served as safeguards of democracy. The judiciary was steadfast against the distortions of the truth and the governing norms about the election. Lawyers serving with integrity – including some on our faculty –  worked to oppose frivolous claims of election fraud or to embolden tireless election workers and officials, often under intense pressure to do otherwise, to faithfully execute their work.

Regrettably, several lawyers joined in baseless efforts to overturn the presidential election, with reckless disregard for the truth and advancing wildly speculative conspiracy theories, and in doing so gave fuel to acts of violence. I take no pleasure in acknowledging that one of them is John Eastman, a law professor at Chapman University and currently a visiting scholar at CU Boulder’s Benson Center for Western Civilization, Thought, and Policy. I was heartened to see that Chancellor Phil DiStefano chastised Eastman for his outlandish comments at the Trump rally in Washington just before the violent raid on the Capitol and for embarrassing the university with his anti-democratic, repugnant conduct. Eastman, along with other lawyers who abandoned fidelity to the truth in the recent saga, are also an embarrassment to our profession. Everyone should know that the law school’s leadership last summer wisely rejected an offer for Eastman to teach at the law school, and he has not taught nor will he teach at Colorado Law – not for the content of his political views, but for his evident lack of qualification.

It remains to be seen what disciplinary action will be taken against the lawyers who advanced challenges to votes cast in the presidential election without fulfilling their professional responsibilities to ground claims in good faith, facts, and evidence, and to demonstrate respect for the legal system. In the meantime, we have our own work to do to reinforce the core values of our profession, as part of our work being, as our vision statement says, "a supportive and diverse educational and scholarly community in a place that inspires vigorous pursuit of ideas, critical analysis, contemplation, and civic engagement to advance knowledge about the law in an open, just society." I’m proud to be the dean of a law school committed to this vision and work.

I wish you all the best for success in the new semester. And please continue to care for yourselves and for each other.

Your dean,

S. James Anaya
Dean and University Distinguished Professor